November 6, 016 -- Kent Farrington knows all about teamwork, having earned a team bronze at the 2014 World Equestrian Games and a team silver at the Rio Olympics.
But when it comes to the elemental team, a man and his horse, Kent really shows what stardom is all about, as he did last night in winning the $250,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Lexington with the sensational Voyeur.
Together, the two are practically a centaur, moving as one to make the most of every stride while they share a goal and determination. They took the CP National Horse Show's feature for the second year in a row, producing turns and cuts that put them in a different category from the other 13 pairs who qualified for the tiebreaker at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The performance left the event's largest audience of the week breathless, but fans had to hold their breath only for a rip-roaring 36.93 seconds, a mark no one else in the tiebreaker would even approach in combination with a clean round. From start to finish, Kent and the 14-year-old Dutch warmblood were in command of their goal.
“I was really hungry to win something tonight,” Kent explained after the competition, a qualifier for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Omaha, Neb., next spring.
“I hadn't won anything this whole show. I don't think anyone even knew I was here. Last week in Washington, I also didn't win, I knocked one down in the jump-off,” he said ruefully.
“I was looking for redemption, to say the least. My plan was to be super-aggressive in the jump-off and try to make everyone chase me after that. I thought my horse was fantastic. He's also a speed specialist and I just try to keep him under control toward the end of the course, so he doesn't get running too fast.”
Only two other riders in the jump-off broke the 40-second barrier, but both had jumping penalties. Those who came closest to Kent in the placings didn't even try to match his mark.
Callan Solem, fourth to go in the jump-off, knew who was behind her (Kent was set to go two slots later) but just produced a tidy trip with no faults in 40.69 seconds on VDL Wizard to be the runner-up.
“I couldn't have made a plan that would have beaten him tonight,” said Callan, who was the highest-placed American, seventh, at last spring's Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Sweden.
For her part, Molly Ashe Cawley, third on the 16-year-old Carissimo in 45.86 seconds said, “I was nervous to do the inside turn from (fence) one to two (the CP vertical to the Longines oxer),” a key component of Kent's victory.
“I didn't know if he would jump it at this stage of the game,” she said of Carissimo.
“It was a big enough oxer off a tight enough turn...so I played it safe and went quick around.” With a nod to Callan and Kent, she noted, “I wasn't going to outrun them.”
As well as giving him a $69,606 paycheck, the victory kept Kent in first place on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League's Eastern sub-league with 62 points, 20 more than Audrey Coulter, who did not make the jump-off. Third on 36 is Lauren Tisbo, 10th at the National with Corlandolo di Ribano, while Jonathan McCrea (fourth on Aristoteles V) is also fourth in the overall standings, one point ahead of Charlie Jacobs (11th on Cassinja S). Hardin Towell, who had a fall when S.F. Ariantha refused in the jump-off, is sixth with 28.
Asked whether he is planning to go to the finals, Kent said he will only compete if he has the right horse for the job, knowing the demands from his previous Cup appearances. He doesn't feel that format would be right for Voyeur. Something should work out, however, since he is juggling a magnificent string of horses, managing them with the meticulous care for which he is known. Next weekend, he takes Creedance to Canada's Royal Winter Fair for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Toronto, while Voyeur rests up for end-of-season outings at Paris and Geneva.
Watch this video to hear what Kent had to say about that. Click on the right-pointing arrow.
Course designer Michel Vaillancourt was surprised so many of the first-round tests he laid out in the Alltech Arena looked easy for 14 entries, when he thought only eight to 10 would go clean. He and the riders noted the footing is such high quality it had almost a trampoline effect, enabling horses to jump at their best. But after a first round in which more than 25 percent of the 40 competitors were fault-free, the $250,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Lexington switched into high gear for the jump-off.
The tiebreaker was a different story, complete with refusals and knockdowns. Only the top three were fault-free; Jonathan McCrea had two time penalties for his cautious trip, and the others below him in the rankings had more problems. McLain Ward was expected to give Kent a run for his money and indeed, he had a decent time in 38.19 seconds with the magnificent HH Azur, but a rail at the fourth of nine fences put him in fifth place.
It was nice, though, to see McLain standing next to his friend Kent as the jump-off continued, offering moral support while the leader watched rival after rival falter.
The evening was a huge success from the standpoint of both spectators and participants. Marty Bauman, who was in charge of the press conferences, noted the establishment of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League and “Longines' presence here at this horse show and all the qualifiers has really taken it up to another level.”
He thanked Longines for “all they do, not just for this horse show, but for show jumping and equestrian sport worldwide. Longines does not just come in and give us a check and sponsor the event. They really work with us, they provide the timing, they make the competition better, they make the event better.”